Celebrating Mental Health and Literacy – How Aunua Academy is bridging the gap between mental well-being and education

INTERVIEW Aunua Academy

Mental health issues among children is not a rare phenomenon. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children dealing with anxiety and depression has increased over the years. This has a lot to do with their environment and their education. 

In our recent interview to celebrate World Mental Health Day, we spoke to Rich Mullens and Karina Murray, Co-founders, Aunua Academy to get an insight on the mental and education of children. 

Why are we still talking about the low literacy rate in 2021?

ARich Mullens: Literacy is such a key skill in all people, whether you’re a young person or an adult and it’s becoming increasingly important now, because of the way that we access information. But the divide between those who have access to technology, the internet and information and those who do not is so significant. Inaccessibility to these essentials prohibits their learning and their growth opportunities for the future. Literacy is the key for humanity to progress to another level, otherwise, the poverty divide will just become so much greater and we need to solve those challenges today. Therefore, it’s more important now than ever that we talk about literacy.

Karina: Knowledge is power, and it’s so important that we help nurture that. There are so many people around the world and it’s a universal language that we need to provide everybody around the world with. I think this whole pandemic has given us a greater sense of the communication that we can have and what’s possible when we open up. We need to look at how we can bridge the world together, make the greatest impact and literacy is a powerful and most important, essential way of doing this.

What are the major barriers to literacy? How is Aunua Academy overcoming them?

A: Rich Mullens: When we talk about literacy rates we need to talk about the quality of life. Leading a great quality of life without access to some of the basic rights is impossible. Literacy is one of the ways that you can learn and learning is the way that we grow as humans, if we cannot learn, we cannot grow. Millions of children, especially in developing countries through no fault of their own, lack of access to equitable education. There is a huge divide between the ones who have the access to education and those who don’t. That’s why everything we do is aligned with the global goals. This year we’re launching our summit which is aligned with the global goal for ‘Quality Education For All’ and goal number three- ‘Good Health and Well Being.’ We believe that both of these goals go hand in hand.
The solutions to these challenges are simple. It is about really putting our focus on serving and supporting those children with the essential supplies. The multiplier effect that it will have will benefit millions of children across the globe.

Just like education, mental health also remains a topic of taboo in a lot of developing countries. What would you like to say to folks from here?

AKarina: Mental health is the core of every person and it is attached to their emotional and physical well being. When we look at third world countries, they neither have proper access to medical support for mental health issues nor awareness of mental health. The core part of any education should be mental health. There has to be a change in our approach and we should see things in a different light and it’s about building those resilience skills, the knowledge and spreading awareness to deal with situations and we can all come through the worst challenging challenges. We should start looking at a different approach to education, start with the children and tap into their emotions and how they’re dealing with things, and that should really be the core above every other subject and on the curriculum.

Rich Mullens: Mental health or social and emotional well being as we like to call it is an inside job. Our emotions come from inside of us and what tends to happen is there are so many external factors that we take on and that we bring into our internal world that changes the dynamic, changes the spirit, the core of who we are. It is important to align education, mental health and well-being because we need to learn, understand and receive tools and tips that help us support and process those emotions, to be able to understand what’s going on inside.

What are the few myths that you’d like to burst?

ARich Mullens: There’s an interesting word about myth because actually mythology is how we tell stories, it helps people create beliefs and belief systems. So the myth of mental health is real, it isn’t a myth. It is a reality for all to be present and to be aware of what I think is so important, about mental health is that we change the paradigm, and we change the conversation. Because the word mental health attaches with it a stigma that has been there for so many years and for so long that we want to change the conversation. We want to coordinate social and emotional well-being because when you focus on the positive, you automatically draw somebody’s attention away from what’s wrong with the person to what’s right with the person. If you have the courage and you wish to see the blessings that come out of challenges, in every challenge that we face in our life, there is a blessing.

Do you think mental and physical health are interconnected?

ARich Mullens: Inside each of our bodies are billions, if not trillions of cells listening to us all day. We send signals to every single cell in our body all the time so the conversation we’re having internally is about illness and not stillness. I believe that we can instruct ourselves to heal ourselves which can only happen when we are still. I believe that we do have the power to change our state to change our physical and emotional state and create ease in our body and that starts as an inside job by being still and being present to the whole being. I think the physical and the mental and the environmental, are all interconnected.

What is the ROAR programme?

AKarina: ROAR programme is the acronym for four core principles of Aunua. If we get these principles correctly, we can create a wonderful world for children. ‘R’ stands for ‘Recognition’ which means recognising your strengths and abilities. ‘O’ stands for ‘Opening up’ which highlights the importance of having open conversations with your parents so that the children know that they are being heard and understood. ‘A’ stands for ‘Acceptance’ which stands for accepting yourself for who you are and your uniqueness and at the same time, accepting others for who they are and appreciating the differences because people are not the same. The last alphabet ‘R’ stands for ‘Reconnecting’ reconnecting with the world.

What is a message you’d like to send out to the volunteers?

AKarina: From the seed of an idea grows the biggest tree. It is amazing to see what can happen when you believe that something big will happen. And then it’s about really enrolling others to see what the vision of ‘what could happen’ look like. Enrolling volunteers has been a massive part of everything that we do and as I say, the backbone of all we do has been. The partnerships and those volunteers have created the whole of our branding.

Rich Mullens: The best way they can get involved it’s very simple: there’s an application form on our website. And they can put their name details and curriculum details and speak to us regarding volunteers. Volunteers are the lifeblood of what we do.

Celebrate World Mental Health Day with Aunua Academy

You can help Aunua Academy by participating via Goodera’s virtual volunteering experience. The experience is powerful and engaging, making it an excellent choice for getting you started on your virtual volunteering adventure.

Interested? Reach out to us here.

Are you a nonprofit looking for volunteers? We can help! Talk to us

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